New Beat is an electronic dance music term that was used in the 1980s with two different meanings, one a collective term used in the U.S. for various electronic music styles, and the other a reference to the New Beat sound: a particular electronic music genre that flourished in Western Europe during the mid-1980s. New Beat is also used as a reference to the wider Belgian underground music scene and subculture during the 1980s.
The European new beat sound originated in Belgium in the late 1980s, especially in 1987 and 1988. It was an underground danceable music style, well known at clubs and discos in Western Europe. It is a crossover of electronic body music (EBM, which also developed in Belgium) with the nascent Chicago-originated acid and house music. New beat is the immediate precursor of hardcore electronic dance music (at the time known as rave), which developed in the neighboring Netherlands and elsewhere around 1990.
The genre was "accidentally invented" in the nightclub Ancienne Belgique (AB) in Antwerp when DJ Dikke Ronny (literally "Fat Ronny") played the 45 rpm EBM record "Flesh" by A Split-Second at 33 rpm, with the pitch control set to +8. In addition to A Split-Second, the genre was also heavily influenced by other industrial and EBM acts such as Front 242 and The Neon Judgement, as well as new wave and dark wave acts such as Fad Gadget, Gary Numan and Anne Clark. Mega-nightclubs such as the Boccaccio soon made the genre a major underground success.
In 1989–90, the genre spawned two short-lived subgenres or successor genres, hard beat and skizzo - the latter being a techno-influenced style, considerably faster than the original slow new beat style.
The most commercially successful new beat groups were Confetti's and The Lords of Acid, which received heavy airplay on the MTV Europe show Party Zone. MTV Europe's VJ Steve Blame was a great fan of new beat, and through his position on MTV News, he promoted Belgium's new beat sound via his reports.
Many Europeans consider new beat as a forerunner of European house (Euro-house). Others consider new beat to have been the first European techno dance music style, less aligned with Italo disco/Euro house/Eurobeat and more aligned with acid house.
In the 2012 documentary The Sound of Belgium, director Jozef Devillé describes the rise and popularity of the genre. It features many pioneers and original producers of the era, complemented by an exemplary selection of tracks, as well as an explanation of the musical roots of the genre. The film was received very well by audiences at IDFA in the same year.
- Dutch Belgian new beat site
- Belgian Pop & Rock Archives
- New Beat: The Sound of the Benelux
- Belgazone French language site with many tracks and video clips
- New Beat Flashback - Interviews and Information: V.J. Marcel Vanthilt from MTV Europe talks about New Beat and take interviews in English. The rest of the clip is in Flemish/Dutch)
- Radio Soulwax on New Beat
- "Sounds of Belgium – day one: a history of Belgian pop in 10 songs". The Guardian. 2 July 2012.
- (Dutch) Belpop: New Beat, cobra.be
- "One Nation Under A (Slowed Down) Groove". MIT NME.
- "Hardcore". Electronic Music Guide.
- New Beat: One Nation Under A (Slowed Down) Groove - A New Musical Express article by Richard Norris of The Grid
- (Dutch) Dikke Ronny, godfather van de New Beat, Studio Brussel (2 September 2013)